Monthly Archives: June 2017

Ann Coulter Calls ‘Grotesque’ Donald Trump A Disappointment

Erstwhile staunch Donald Trump booster Ann Coulter has called the president ?grotesque? and disappointing as she appeared poised to bail on him even before The Washington Post reported Monday that he leaked classified information to the Russians.

?Everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque,? but it was the issues, the conservative commentator and author told The Daily Caller in an interview Sunday. Now, as far as the issues go, ?boy, things don?t look good,? she said.

?I?m not very happy with what has happened so far,? Coulter added. ?I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But … if he doesn?t keep his promises I?m out.?

?Where is the great negotiation?? she asked. ?That budget the Republicans pushed through was like a practical joke.? Did we win anything??

She even called developments in the administration a ?disaster so far.?

Coulter is particularly disappointed about lack of progress on building a wall along the Mexican border and suggested people send bricks to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Coulter said she was opposed from the beginning to the president hiring daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. ?Americans don?t like that, I don?t like that. That?s the one fascist thing he?s done. Hiring his kids.?

Coulter said that being on the Trump ride is like being told you?ve got six days to make it from Chicago to Los Angeles, except you spend the first three days heading instead to New York. 

?He can still turn around and get us to LA in three days, but I?m a little nervous,? she added.

?If we just keep going to New York … again, I?ll say we had no choice, but the Trump-haters were right ? it?s a nightmare. I can?t even contemplate that. Right now I?m still rooting for him to turn around and take us toward LA.?

Coulter help drum up big support for Trump during the presidential campaign and wrote the book ?In Trump We Trust,? in which she said she ?worshiped? him with ?blind loyalty.?

?I have no regrets for ferociously supporting him. What choice did we have?? she asked. ?I don?t apologize. … He said all the right things and nobody else would even say it.?

She said she still believes in ?Trumpism? and largely faults the Republican Congress for moving too slowly to make changes. ?They are swine.?

She called Trump the ?last shot? but then named U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as someone she might consider supporting in the future.

Coulter was scheduled to speak last month supporting crackdowns on undocumented immigrants in a controversial appearance at the University of California, Berkeley. She eventually canceled after a back-and-forth with university officials over security issues.

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Trump Reportedly Revealed Classified Info During Meeting With Russian Officials

President Donald Trump disclosed ?highly classified information? during a meeting with Russian officials last week, according to the Washington Post.

The revelations raise new questions about the already controversial meeting of Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, who is the Russian ambassador to the U.S. 

Trump revealed information to the Russian visitors that ?jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State,? the Post reported Monday, citing current and former U.S. officials with ties to the administration. The publication did not elaborate on what the president?s disclosure entailed, due to its sensitive nature.

BuzzFeed later confirmed the report, adding that the Senate Intelligence Committee was also briefed on the disclosures. ?It?s far worse than what has already been reported,? one official reportedly told the outlet.

A White House spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment on whether Trump shared classified information with the Russian officials.

Read the full Washington Post report here

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers immediately voiced concern over the apparent intelligence disclosures.

?If it?s true, I would say it?s disturbing,? Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN Monday evening. 

But McCain also told the Associated Press that Trump was within his rights to share the information. 

?If true, this is a slap in the face to the intel community. Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians,? said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

?Obviously they?re in a downward spiral right now and they?ve got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that?s happening,? Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Monday.

Trump had already received abundant criticism for the meeting in the Oval Office ? including disapproval that it happened one day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been investigating his administration?s alleged ties to Russia.

Trump was also attacked for allowing a photographer for the Russian state news agency TASS to cover the meeting, which American media had been barred from attending.

The White House said it had been misled, but the Russian photographers? access to the Oval Office sparked questions about a possible security breach. ?Deadly serious Q: Was it a good idea to let a Russian gov photographer & all their equipment into the Oval Office?? tweeted Colin Kahl, deputy national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden.

 This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Libraries Are Dropping Overdue Fines — But Can They Afford To?

The New York Public Library has joined the growing ranks of public library systems contemplating the end of overdue fines for children, according to a WNYC report. 

A fifth of NYPL accounts held by children have been blocked due to unpaid fines, but the library president, Tony Marx, would like to motivate kids to be good library users without charging them for failures. 

?We?ve heard stories of parents saying to their kids, ?We don?t want you to borrow books because you might be late with them and then you?ll have fines to worry about,?? he told WNYC. In fact, overdue fines can end up keeping thousands of kids from accessing library resources, just because they?re unable to pay what they owe.

Library fines may be small ? NYPL charges children just 10 cents a day for an overdue book ? but many of us live in disproportionate terror of them, a terror forged in our tender, formative years.

?When you?re younger, one of the first or the only external pressures that?s put on you, that?s punitive, could easily be from a library setting,? American Library Association President Julie Todaro explained to HuffPost. Outside of library fines, ?Young people really do not have the credit fears that adults do.?

Those childhood fears retain significant space in our consciousnesses, even years after, effectively demonstrated by the highly on-point ?Seinfeld? episode, ?The Library,? in which Jerry is tracked down by a library detective still searching for a book he failed to return decades before. 

Despite this effect, libraries did not institute fines in order to shame, punish or make money off of patrons, Todaro emphasized. Rather, a fine is ?supposed to maximize use of the material? by providing a small but sharp reminder to return what we?ve borrowed.

?People want those books,? she told HuffPost, ?and there?s not enough.? What?s more, she explained, replacing a lost or stolen book eats up more library resources than delinquent borrowers may realize ? not just in the price of the new book, but in costly human labor to acquire and process it. Fines provide a classic economic motivation for cardholders to avoid those negative externalities.

In times when government funding for libraries dwindles, some argue that libraries can succumb to the temptation to depend on fines, along with fees for library services, to supplement their operating costs. At most libraries, the proceeds are reinvested in the library in some form, though sometimes the money is allocated to the city?s general fund. Fines and fees are dwarfed by a public library?s overall budget, however ? according to Library Journal, fines often make up less than one percent of funding, and enforcing fines itself requires funding.

Aside from the impracticality of funding a library based on fines, Todaro argued that depending on these nominal fees undermines a library?s essential mission. ?We don?t want to run a for-profit business, or even a break-even business that?s based on income,? she said. ?It?s something that would not return a great deal of money for us and would create an adversarial role.? Once a public library is funded by use rather than by taxpayer funds, she added, the question arises: ?What?s different from a bookstore??

The NYPL would be far from the first library system to dump fines for children. New York?s Rochester Public Library made the move earlier this year, as did Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado. Others, like Oak Park Public Library in Illinois and Worthington Libraries in Ohio, already have or plan to eliminate fines for all residents. The key to this experiment, as Todaro explained, is finding ways to maximize access and positive relationships between libraries and patrons.

?Technology was a huge boon for us,? she said. Not only can libraries send out automatic return reminders, a significant percentage of books checked out today (about 20 percent, according to Todaro) are eBooks. When an eBook?s due date arrives, a library need not depend on the patron to bring it back; instead, it can simply disappear the eBook from a patron?s device. 

As alternatives to fines, she suggested allowing patrons to pay via food donations, working off their debt in the library, or simply excluding certain vulnerable populations from fines. Suspending accounts until books are returned, rather than involving fines, was one measure Marx floated as an option for NYPL?s young readers, though Todaro notes that ?[libraries] do it grudgingly, because we don?t want to limit access.?

Or, libraries can just drop fines altogether and depend on residents to bring back books in a timely fashion without punitive measures. In February, Slate?s Ruth Graham looked at the aftermath of a Colorado library district?s elimination of overdue fines in 2015 and found that the financial loss was manageable and the boost to morale ? for both patrons and librarians ? was striking. Perhaps most notable: ?95 percent of materials are returned within a week of their due date.?

Such a simple move might seem too good to be true, but perhaps sometimes the simplest solution really is also the best for all concerned.

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Lies, Abuse And Murder Collide In New True Crime Documentary

?I knew that Dee Dee was murdered, but that wasn?t the most interesting thing,? director Erin Lee Carr told HuffPost about her latest documentary, ?Mommy Dead and Dearest.? ?It was about why.?

On the surface, Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter, Gypsy Blanchard, seemed to be the textbook example of mother-daughter BFFs. Gypsy, who used a wheelchair and received treatment for several conditions, was always at her mother?s side, sporting a huge grin. The two made appearances at Relay for Life events, went on Make-A-Wish trips together, and even received a house through charity upon leaving their home state of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

Yet, when Dee Dee was found murdered in her Missouri home in June 2015, a different story began to emerge. Gypsy wasn?t sick at all ? in fact, she could walk. Authorities discovered her in Wisconsin, on the run with a boyfriend she met online. Later, he would confess to stabbing Dee Dee at Gypsy?s request.

This explosive case spread like wildfire around the internet after Michelle Dean?s comprehensive, chilling BuzzFeed article that detailed the abuse and the grisly end for Gypsy?s mother.

Now, Carr?s film further explores the incident, featuring interviews with family members, medical professionals, law enforcement and Gypsy herself, who is now serving out a 10-year prison sentence. And while there are no tantalizing uncertainties in the way of ?Making a Murderer? or ?Serial,? the sheer facts of what happened are enough to get you hooked.

?It?s really important that it starts off big and bold and scary and weird, for me,? Carr explained, saying that her previous film, ?Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop,? unfurled in a similar way, where social media and the internet are the catalyst for revealing darker truths. 

Gypsy, the film shows, was a victim of Munchausen by proxy, in which a caretaker exaggerates or induces illness in a child for sympathy or attention. 

Dee Dee tightly controlled Gypsy?s interactions with the outside world. From a young age, we find, Gypsy was told she suffered from epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, intellectual disabilities and more. Scenes from Gypsy and Dee Dee?s house show an entire hall closet full of medications. Elsewhere, in a scene where Gypsy?s father and stepmother meet with her attorney, stacks of medical records detailing doctor and hospital visits through the years surround them. Oftentimes, Gypsy wasn?t certain of her actual age.

?Sometimes, my mouth drops,? Gypsy?s stepmother, Kristy Blanchard, told HuffPost. ?You know, when I think I?ve heard it all, and then you get hit again with something.? 

Dee Dee and Gypsy?s father, Rod Blanchard, were young when they married. They separated before Gypsy was born. Rod then remarried, and he and Kristy saw Gypsy often as a young girl in their home state of Louisiana. But after the mother and daughter?s move to Missouri, the distance allowed Dee Dee?s control over Gypsy to grow even greater.

?Most of the times, I would call to talk to [Gypsy], she told me, ?I?ll call back in a little while and have her ready,?? Rod said of Dee Dee. ?To me, I?m thinking, OK, she?s gonna get her by the wheelchair, wake her up, or do whatever. But looking back now, she was telling her what to say or kind of coaching her along. ?Don?t talk about this, talk about this.? So there was never a time that I felt like she wasn?t being coached.?

In the documentary, we see a different Gypsy from the version shown in news stories about the case. There?s no wheelchair, no feeding tube. Her hair has grown out more. She?s able to speak for herself.

?Gypsy kind of changed almost every time I saw her or talked to her,? said Carr. ?She was in the process of growing up, she?s in the process of configuring sort of who she was.?

Carr still stays in touch with Gypsy. ?I hope that I?m one of many women that will just be like, ?Hey, you have a voice. You deserve to be listened to,?? she said of their relationship.

?Mommy Dead and Dearest? succeeds in navigating the complications that come with true crime, highlighting what Carr called the ?WTF factor? of the murder without feeling exploitative or sensational. By the film?s end, it?s impossible not to feel for Gypsy?s plight, even if she isn?t the one who ended up dead.

?From a New Yorker?s perspective, it felt totally unconscionable that this wasn?t seen quicker,? said Carr. ?But as we dove into investigating this story, it was like, [Rod] lived in a different state, Dee Dee literally kept Gypsy from him. She monitored everything that they said to each other. Rod would send her Christmas gifts and Dee Dee would say that she had bought them. There was no shot that he was going to be able to see what was happening here.?

While watching, your heart goes out to Rod and Kristy, who reunite with Gypsy in the courtroom in an emotional scene near the end of the film. The couple represent a kind of silver lining in this sad story ? without Dee Dee?s overwhelming presence, Rod and Kristy can finally establish a real relationship with his daughter. Kristy said they now speak all the time on the phone, and showed HuffPost a photo of the three during a recent visit to Gypsy around Easter.

?I was so nervous about it at the time,? Rod said of their initial meeting shown in the film. ?Now, when I watch it, now I get more emotional watching it … It was scary, I mean, for a long time I didn?t know if she hated me or what Dee Dee told her about me, so this was the first time I got really face-to-face with her and rejoin with her.?

Carr said she sympathizes with Rod. ?He lost years of a life with his child, he almost lost his kid, and what?s gonna happen to Gypsy while she?s in prison? That is a difficult road ahead of her. But they are there for her, and that is a very rare thing.?

?Mommy Dead and Dearest? airs May 15 at 10 p.m. on HBO.

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My Exciting New Gig: Why I’m Happier (And Healthier) Than I’ve Ever Been

After I graduated college, and for the next twenty years, I worked as a television news producer in New York. Never would I have imagined a career transition into writing full-time, yet the early deaths of my parents (my mother died when she was 56, my father passed away when he was 63) pushed me into unanticipated terrain.

My sorrow drove me to write. And giving myself time to investigate subjects that were increasingly important to me (cancer prevention and preventative surgery because both my parents died of cancer) made me happier. It also propelled me into writing books about grief and the unobvious ways embracing the past helps individuals and families thrive.

Grief experts have long argued that sustaining connections to loved ones is essential for moving forward. This concrete roadmap for healing is what gave me the idea for Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, and it?s why I?m relishing my decision to become Executive Family & Memories Editor for a company I really adore. It?s called Legacy Republic.

I?m hooked on Legacy Republic because its mission is making fun, social experiences out of digitizing memories. I steadfastly believe keeping the memory of loved ones alive builds happiness and resilience after loss. It?s what I wrote about for O, the Oprah Magazine, the launch of Sheryl Sandberg?s Option B, and it?s the focus of my grief and resilience blog. No other company embraces this idea more than LR. Its very mission is making memory-preservation an uplifting experience to be shared with friends, family, and neighbors ? both in person and online.

Below is a portion of what I wrote about Legacy Republic in my book Passed and Present:

If you?ve ever been to a party where the goal was hanging out with neighbors while buying kitchen gadgets, you have a pretty good idea how Legacy Republic works.

A Legacy Republic representative comes to your home to make one-stop shopping out of digitizing film, video, photos, slides, even entire scrapbooks and albums. The consultant walks participants through the process, packages up their pictures and other media, and sends them to its facilities in California or Georgia. I found the process entertaining and casual ? friends got to eat and hang out while the adviser peeled us off one by one to discuss our options and place our order.

Three weeks after my gathering, Legacy Republic provided a link to a private online account where all my information is stored. I can log in, drag my cursor to a section of video I like, mark beginning and end points, and upload the snippet directly to Facebook. I also got my original material back, along with a DVD.

At this exhilarating inflection point in my career, I?m reminded of what Gandhi has said: ?Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.? Yes! I?m so there.

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The Wildest Looks From The 2017 BAFTAs Red Carpet

Move over, MTV. The BAFTAs red carpet is here and looking more exciting than ever.  

Celebrities attended the Virgin TV British Academy Television Awards in London on Sunday. While BBC?s programming beating out Netflix?s ?The Crown? in multiple categories made headlines, the red carpet caught our attention. 

There were umbrellas (so British!), splendidly spiked hair, the fullest of full skirts and Joan Collins in some serious sleeves.

Check out our picks for wildest looks of the night below.  

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